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3 Key Challenges Safety Managers Need to Face Every Day

As a safety manager on a construction site, you’re shouldering a heavy dual responsibility. 

First, of course, you’re responsible for the safety and wellbeing of possibly dozens or even hundreds of workers engaged in what has long been recognized as one of the most dangerous professions. After all, over 20 percent of private industry worker fatalities every year are construction workers. And, construction workers experience non-fatal injuries at a rate 71 percent higher than the average for any other industry. 

Many of the workers on your site are probably good friends, and all of them are men and women with families, hopes, and dreams. A serious injury on the job can change or destroy all of that.

Second, a safety issue on your watch can result in huge financial cost to your company. The more serious the incident, the more costly it can be. For example, one worker fatality will cost the company nearly $1 million, on average. And, non-fatal injuries on the construction site cost construction companies over 7.1 million lost days of productivity in 2017 alone. 

It’s not fair to reduce human beings to dollars and cents, but the reality is that even a minor injury can cost a lot when you combine medical bills, worker’s compensation payments, litigation, and lost productivity. 

So, if you’re a little stressed, we understand. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest challenges you face every day, and see if we can reduce some of that stress for you. 


Enforcing safety standards

Safety standards save lives. It’s that simple. In the five decades since OSHA was established, workplace fatalities in the U.S. dropped from an average of 38 per day in 1970 to 14 per day in 2017. 

Realistically though, sticking to the “letter of the law” doesn’t always mesh well with the hectic, high-pressure environment of a busy construction site. So, workers sometimes cut corners or compromise safety — intentionally or accidentally — in favor of speed and convenience. 

Why it’s a problem

  • You’re one person who’s trying to police dozens of workers. 

  • They’re spread out over a large site that likely encompasses numerous environments, including multiple levels. And, they’re not just sitting still the whole time, they’re constantly on the move. 

  • The site also contains a wide array of potential hazards, some of which are mobile.


Controlling site access

One of the most basic ways you can keep people safe on a jobsite is to make sure no one gets on the site who’s not properly trained and equipped, or isn’t supposed to be there at all. Of the top 10 most frequently violated OSHA standards, four of them involve construction workers not using personal protective equipment (PPE). Ideally, no one would be able to access the site if:

  1. They’re not scheduled to be there for a particular purpose

  2. They don’t have the appropriate PPE for whatever work they’re doing

  3. They’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs 

Likewise, keeping trespassers out after hours can protect them, and the company alike. 

Why it’s a problem

  • Most construction sites are in a constant state of flux, with various subcontractors and laborers coming and going in what usually amounts to barely organized chaos.

  • Many sites lack adequate perimeter fencing, meaning that policing trespassers or workers entering and exiting from all sides becomes next to impossible. 

  • Enforcing a manual check-in and check-out process involving you and a clipboard can be a logistical nightmare and slows down work, not to mention being a full-time job of its own. 


Monitoring safety training and certifications

As you know, even if your jobsite has had no accidents, you’ve figured out how to manage jobsite access, and every one of your workers is exceptionally conscientious, you can still get hit by a costly fine if an OSHA inspector finds that one or more workers onsite aren’t up-to-date on their safety training, equipment certifications, or other compliance issues. 

With a maximum potential fine of $13,260 per unintentional violation, that’s a costly situation. 

Why it’s a problem

  • As noted above, a construction site can be a logistical nightmare for personnel management. While you may have the information you need somewhere to confirm every worker’s training and certification expiration dates, putting your hands on that information quickly and easily in time to head off a compliance issue is not so easy. 

  • Staying compliant also means you yourself need an opportunity to stay abreast of changing regulations as they apply to each different job you work on. 


How some safety managers are solving these problems

There’s no arguing the fact that these are challenging issues. But, some safety managers have found that judicious use of technology can go a long way toward easing the burden, improving overall safety, and saving significant amounts of money in the process. 

For example, many sites have started adopting a more security-conscious perimeter design, using fencing combined with a turnstile-based entrance and exit portal. These turnstiles can be set up to function using wearable RFID tags or ID cards, ensuring the only people who can enter are those with the appropriate clearance. By reducing site access to a controlled point, managing who is and is not allowed onsite becomes much easier. 

In other cases, the fencing may or may not be possible, but the turnstiles are still effective because workers need to pass through them in order to be counted as having worked that day. This arrangement is not as effective in eliminating trespassers, but it does at least offer an effective labor management opportunity. 

And, with the right software integrations, these kinds of systems can also incorporate verification of up-to-date training and certifications. So, a worker who tries to get onsite with an expired certification will be instructed to report wherever they need to in order to resolve that situation before going back to work. 

There are also cloud-based systems that can integrate your company’s personnel database with location monitoring, text messaging, and alert notifications to provide a safety manager with instant access to invaluable information in the case of an emergency. Imagine, right at your fingertips, you could have a worker’s location onsite, details regarding their emergency contact information, the ability to send out targeted notifications and messaging quickly (such as in the case of weather issues or hazards), and the ability to do almost instant headcounts at muster points. 

In all these cases, quick, reliable access to vital information makes the safety manager’s job more manageable. This automation of mundane tasks frees you up to focus on the far more important work of keeping your jobsite safe and secure. Together, data and automation are the key to using technology to solve construction safety issues.

Want to know more?  Download 'The Essential Guide to Construction Workforce Management'.

About the Author

Matt Ramage leads the global Trimble Construction growth marketing strategy, focused on the development of strategies and initiatives that target pipeline development opportunities, improved SaaS go-to-market and dramatically increasing demand. Matt has a history in business leadership, demand generation, inbound marketing, IoT and sales. He has led global teams through periods of rapid growth and development.

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